"Master One Of The Most
Important Fundamentals Of Your Fighting Skills - Your Feet!"
From: Jason Stanley, 3rd Dan Shitoryu
Many new students have difficulty using their
feet. I'm not referring to kicking in this article, I'm talking
about footwork, positioning and dynamic movement. This is one thing
that is difficult to master. Until you have it "under your belt" so
to speak, you don't use your feet in the correct way and will be
left frustrated and disheartened.
Footwork is one of the
foundations of karate. It doesn't matter if it's in self defense,
kihon, kata or kumite - footwork is required in all four aspects of
your training. If you're willing to learn and want to improve then
I'm about to show you exactly how easy it is to move once you
understand and know how to apply these concepts.
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This might be basic revision for
some of us, but for most it is the realization of an important
First let's consider why
footwork is important...
- Good footwork gets you into striking range
where you can hit.
- Good footwork gets you out of striking range
where you'll avoid being hit, or worse yet, killed.
It's important to have good
footwork to take you from point A to point B so you maximize your
Good footwork also gets you back from point B to
point A, or from point B to point C, where point C is a different
position to that in which you started.
It doesn't matter if it's competition or in the street, the
same footwork principles apply. It's just the techniques
Before you can move effectively, you must be on
the balls of your feet as this is the part of your foot that is
responsible for your balance and dynamic movement. Don't believe me?
Stand in your forward stance and put all your weight on your heels
by lifting your toes and balls of your feet off the floor - try to
The most effective way to move is by sliding
rather than stepping. Although there are certainly times when you
need to step rather than slide, please remember the following key
Sliding will always be faster than stepping! The foot that
moves first is the one in the direction that you wish to
I have listed the following 4 movements in order
from fastest to slowest:
- Slide forward
- Slide backward
- Step forward
- Step backward
So if you're only good at stepping, you're going
to be in trouble when you come across someone who knows how to slide
I'm not going to teach you how to step, as
different styles place emphasis on different aspects of stepping,
plus your sensei can show you that. Instead I'd like to break down
the 4 basic sliding movements and discuss how to perform each.
To move forward from your forward stance slightly pick up your front
foot and drive powerfully and quickly with your rear leg. You will
largely depend on the ball of your rear foot and toes to provide the
push-off. This "slide" will propel you forward. Only lift your front
leg slightly. Don't completely transfer your weight onto your
rear leg, otherwise you will be working against the direction in
which you want to move.
The key to this is that you are transferring very
little weight to your rear leg. With practice you'll know when you
do this technique correctly. But an easy way to test your forward
slide is by by trying the following exercise.
Stand in your forward stance and pick up your
front foot 2 inches without transferring your weight to your rear
leg. What happens? You fall forward because you have around 50% of
your weight over your front foot which is no longer on the ground
and you also have tension in your stance that causes you to move
Now when you want to drive forward (instead of
just falling), pick up your foot slightly and push with your rear
leg before your front foot hits the floor. Viola! You've just slid
12-24 inches depending on how hard you pushed.
For this technique do not move your back foot first!
If you step up with your back foot and then lift your front
foot, pushing with your back leg you will get a jerky,
awkward movement that will take longer and usually give away
your technique to your opponent.
You guessed it, moving backward requires that you do the exact
reverse of moving forward. So this time without transferring
your weight forward, pick up your back foot a fraction and use your
muscles in your front leg to push backward. Again, rely on the ball
of your foot and toes--this time of your front foot--to drive you
Moving sideways is a little more complicated, but uses the same
principle. For this example let's assume you are standing with your
left leg forward. If you want to move left, pick up your left foot
slightly. Which way do you fall if you don't push? Forward, not
left! To prevent yourself from falling forward, push to the left
with your rear (right) leg as soon as you pick up your front (left)
Of course moving right is the exact opposite of
moving left. First pick up your rear (right) leg a fraction and
drive right with your left (front) leg.
Moving in other directions requires mixing together two of the above
techniques. e.g.. Moving forward and moving left. Depending on how
much emphasis you want to place on going forward relative to moving
left is up to you. You simply drive more in the direction you want
to go with your other leg. It's just deciding which way you want to
go and lots of practice that will increase your directional
Stringing together two single shuffles (or slides) will give you a
double shuffle. This is an extremely easy way to move forward or
backward very quickly. As soon as you complete your first shuffle
forward, immediately repeat the process and you'll have created a
This is exceptionally handy in a
sparring situation when you throw a front hand/rear hand
combination. Throw the first punch on the first shuffle and the
reverse punch on the second shuffle. Be sure to keep your hands up!
You'll find that you "cross the gap" between you and your opponent
quickly and easily.
For advanced users....
The first time I saw my sensei do this I was quite impressed and was
inspired to learn it as soon as possible! This technique again
allows you to cover a lot of ground very quickly. You'll cover about
the same distance as with a double shuffle but in less time, giving
you the valuable element of surprise. This technique uses the same
dynamic movement as a double shuffle but with a twist.
Make your first shuffle forward, but before your
front foot touches the ground, drive as hard as you can with your
rear leg a second time. It's kind of like a double shuffle but your
front foot doesn't touch down between the first and second shuffle
as it does with the double shuffle.
You can apply this same concept to moving
backwards when you have to get out of range very quickly. Lift your
rear foot and drive with your front leg backwards, but before your
rear foot touches down, drive again with your front leg in the
In closing here are some
important points to remember...
- Don't over rotate or lean to compromise your
stance when trying to strike your opponent. Instead always
use your feet to get as close as needed to do your technique
- Whether it be in the dojo or street always
move your feet to the outside line of your opponent's feet
so you have the advantage of sweeping or throwing your opponent
across your leg.
- Always move to the outside line of your
opponent's feet so that you are out of their firing line and you
have the added advantage of striking unprotected targets. You
will notice from this position that they will have to punch
across themselves to try to hit you.
- It's always better to move from Point A to
Point B to Point C rather than staying at Point B or moving back
to Point A. Point C is the least most predictable position after
- Only lift your feet as much as you have to in
order to propel yourself in one direction or another. A good
connection with the ground is important for strong effective
technique. Lifting your feet too high will transfer more weight
onto your other leg making it slower and more difficult to move
into and out of position.